EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen has come under severe criticism for the EU executive’s vaccine approach, and the way a new export control mechanism was rolled out – touching a politically highly-sensitive nerve in Northern Ireland.
Von der Leyen, who came to office in 2019 with a narrow majority of just nine MEPs, will be quizzed by European lawmakers on Wednesday (10 February) on this vaccine approach.
MEPs are expected to raise the issue of delays in vaccine deliveries, contracts and transparency, and the export-monitoring mechanism.
As vaccine deliveries remain sluggish in the EU, Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban has said his country may start vaccinating citizens with Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine this week – the first country in the EU to do so.
The Russian vaccine has been authorised by Hungarian authorities, but not yet by the bloc’s regulator.
After the damaging performance by EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell in Moscow last week, MEPs will grill Borrell his visit on Tuesday (9 February).
Borrell made the visit following the arrest and jailing of opposition activist Alexei Navalny and a crackdown of protests in Russia.
Borrell did not meet Navalny in Moscow, with the commission saying it would have meant that the EU accepted his imprisonment, which it objects to.
Humiliating the EU top diplomat, Russia expelled three EU diplomats last Friday.
Borrell said at the time that “there is no proposal by any member state” to impose sanctions on Russia for the jailing of Navalny, and cracking down on peaceful protests.
MEPs will debate on Tuesday (and vote on Wednesday) on the core of the Covid-19 recovery fund, the €672.5bn grants and loans available to member states to mitigate the economic effects of the pandemic.
Once the facility is formally adopted by the parliament, the focus will be on member states – which need to draw up domestic national plans to use the money – which then will be discussed with the commission and other member states before getting a green light.
MEPs will discuss on Monday with European Central Bank president, Christine Lagarde, how the bank can help further to alleviate Covid-19’s economic fallout.
MEPs will also discuss on Wednesday freedom of speech and disinformation, focusing on scrutiny of social media platforms, and the protection of fundamental rights.
On Tuesday, MEPs will also debate the latest developments in Poland, focusing on a recent decision for a near-total ban on abortions by the highly-politicised Polish Constitutional Tribunal.
Lawmakers on Monday will discuss plans to fight inequality and address the growing problem of in-work poverty. They are expected to vote on a report endorsing an EU directive on minimum wages as a means to reduce the growing inequality.